For an entire week, I awkwardly made my way through four group fitness classes around the Shawnee Mission East area. From biking with middle-aged women, to boxing with a huge guy named Ray, my week was exhausting and entertaining. I’m not exactly an Olympian, so some classes were better than others. Find out what’s best for you.
Anyone who likes loud rap music and has any sort of pent up aggression, I have found the class for you. During this aggressive hour I hopped, punched, kicked, crunched, crawled, side-stepped and lunged my way into a sweaty and sore mess. This class is intense. Set to bumping and loud songs by mainstream rappers like Eminem, Wiz Khalifa, and Kanye West, instructor Ray calls out directions in a military-style, “Ya gotta go 1, 2, punch, up, and then down. Then swing in for a body hit. Like a home run. 1, 2, up, down, home run. NOW GO GO GO!” Did you get that? Yeah, me neither. I kept having to look around and do that thing where you watch the people beside you and sort of mimic their movements, all while trying to look like you absolutely know what’s going on. I was so intimidated by the buff men and skinny women going after the punching bags like animals. All of my fitness fears were culminating on State Line at 7:30 on a Wednesday night. I went in for the “1, 2, punch, up, down, home run” and felt ridiculous. I don’t punch things. I’m not angry with anyone. I felt like a toddler taking the SAT. I was totally out of place. I felt confused and very uncomfortable. But about midway through something magical happened. I started channeling a little Muhammad Ali, and stopped caring about anyone else in the class. I just focused on myself. Sure I wasn’t swinging hooks and jabs like the ripped sweaty guy next to me, but it didn’t really matter to me anymore. I’m completely positive that I looked absolutely ridiculous and was a sad excuse for a boxer. And I’m completely positive that If I ever get into a fist-fight with anyone, I will still lose, but it was a good workout. I mean a really good workout. And I felt it in the morning. My shoulders felt as if they had been unhinged from my back and my abs cramped from the perilous sets of medicine ball workouts we did afterwards. Ray had us doing things with the medicine ball I didn’t even know were possible. I was working muscles I wasn’t even positive existed. I was sweating in places I was sure weren’t supposed to sweat. Did you know your calves can sweat? Well, they can. Title Boxing Club taught me that.
Yoga is my regular exercise. And I don’t mean to brag, but I am good at yoga. Well, compared to the others in the class, who are anywhere from 30 to 60 years older than me, I’m pretty good. But that’s irrelevant, because workout classes aren’t about size or age. They’re just about you and your personal goals. It’s important to take a class in which you feel you can succeed in but also enjoy at the same time, and for me that’s yoga. It’s the perfect end to a hectic week. The different positions I have learned in this class are fantastic, but my favorite part is the meditation at the very end. Our teacher turns the lights off and we lie on our yoga mats as she coaches us into a relaxed state. Most of the time I’m so exhausted that I fall asleep for the last 20 minutes. But that power-nap completely rejuvenates me. Napping in a workout I’ll admit it sounds a little ridiculous. But when I go home afterwards, everything seems easier. My stresses are less, and I breathe easier. Yoga is perfect for anyone who is feeling stressed and just needs a little quiet time towards the end of the week.
I sat in the reception area of the Sylvester Powell Community Center, making small-talk with the receptionists and awaiting my ever-impending doom: spin class. I was scared. Expecting ridiculously fit moms in tight pants, ferociously pumping their legs around the stationary bikes and sweating profusely. I was quite off, actually. Spin class was friendly and fun and the class was surprisingly enjoyable. It was made up almost completely of middle-aged women and a smiley easy-going teacher. We spun for 50 minutes to peppy and motivating music, lifting up to climb imaginary hills, and crouching down to avoid branches. By the end of it I was sweating quite a bit and in the morning I was pretty sore. If you like 80’s pump-up songs, a friendly non-intimidating workout, or just need a boost on Tuesday afternoon, this class is for you. I was smiling a majority of the time, and for me, that’s the point of personal fitness.
Three rows of women step and shimmy aggressively in front of me. Their footwork’s impeccable. Their timing’s astounding. Their rhythm’s perfect. And then there’s me. I try to follow our quick-stepping teacher, but the moves are so swift and a lot harder than they look. After an hour of being about three steps behind everyone in the class and failing to keep up the beat, I began to realize this Latin-inspired dance class was not for me. Zumba is not all that it is cracked up to be. I hated watching my awkward dance attempts in the wide mirrors around me. I hated how much better the rest of the class was than me. The teacher never even explained how to do any of the steps and just expected us to follow her lead. It was a lot of backside shaking and shimmying — two dance moves that make me extremely uncomfortable.
I was too focused on getting the routines down to actually put in any force into it and get a decent workout. I didn’t even break a sweat. I can see this class being fantastic for people with a background in dance or can even just keep a beat. But that’s definitely not me, so I didn’t have fun, but I would encourage everyone to try it just once. At the very least you might learn some cool new dance moves to whip out during a party. Ariba!